According to information provided on the Federal Trade Commission's website, identity theft is defined as "The act of stealing your good name to commit fraud."
Identity theft (or identity fraud) involves using another person's name and information to do such things as obtain credit, steal money from the victim's existing accounts, and apply for loans. Although no one is completely immune, you can take action to avoid having your identity stolen. The following are a few suggestions on how to best protect your name and your good credit.
- Carefully guard your personal information and be selective about with whom you share it. Personal information includes such things as your name, address, phone number, driver's license number, social security number, credit card numbers, birth date, and mother's maiden name.
- Carry as few credit cards and forms of ID as possible. Typically, there's no reason to carry your social security card in your wallet.
- Keep a list or photocopies of all information you carry in your wallet or purse. Store this information in a secure location.
- Shred documents that contain your personal information and account numbers before you throw them away. This includes unsolicited credit card applications.
- Don't print your driver's license or social security number on your checks.
- Examine your credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies at least once a year.
Tax time is open season for identity thieves. Beware of the following:
- Tax identity theft - usually occurs when a scammer files a fraudulent tax return using a consumer’s Social Security number in order to get a refund.
- IRS impersonation scams - a person will generally contact a consumer by phone, claiming they are an IRS agent and the consumer owes the agency money.The callers then suggest the consumers pay by wiring money or loading money on a pre-paid debit card.The calls may seem to be from Washington, DC, numbers and such callers will often threaten arrest or legal action. In addition, the scammers may even know a consumer’s full or partial Social Security number.
- Phishing scams - are typically carried out with the use of unsolicited email or a fake website posing as a legitimate site to lure potential victims to give out personal and financial information. This is then used to commit identity or financial theft. The IRS continues to include phishing on its annual list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the 2015 filing season.
The IRS will never call about unpaid taxes or penalties. The IRS also generally does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by email to request personal or financial information, including any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
To help educate consumers, protect themselves and take action if they believe they have been victimized, the Federal Trade Commission, IRS and NCUA all offer resources:
Free Annual Credit Report
You are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
If you haven’t ordered one in the past year, visit Annual Credit Report, the official site authorized by the three credit agencies to help consumers obtain their free credit report. To contact each of the agencies, click on the link below or call their toll-free number.
If you are a Victim of Identity Theft
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, immediately take the following actions:
- File a police report.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit-reporting agencies. Request that they place a "fraud alert" on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.
- Contact Ventura County Credit Union’s Member Service Call Center at 805.477.4000 or 800.339.0496 to close your defrauded accounts and open new accounts.
For more information about identity theft, visit the following websites: